"I prefer liberty to chains of diamonds"

When I lived here before in 1999 I used to meet regularly with a group of women in a book club and I am so excited that we have started up again. The first meeting will be at the end of July and I got to pick the book! I picked something that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now and that is where the title quote comes in…

When Lady Mary Wortley Montagu said those words she was most likely referring to freedom for women (from men) but those same words can have a very different meaning today. Not long after I saw the movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, I saw Ishmael Beah interviewed on the Daily Show by John Stewart. The movie had moved me deeply and the interview with this young man really brought home the reality of the situation.
Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980 and at only 26 years old he had his own memoirs published. What could he possibly have to write in a memoir at his age? More than we could ever imagine, I suspect. Once a Boy Soldier, Beah’s story, I have no doubt, will be harrowing and emotionally draining but is such an important memoir that I feel privileged to read it. A Long Way Gone is Beah’s account of how, at the tender age of twelve, he was forced to flee his home by attacking rebels, and at thirteen, had been picked up by the government army and forced to fight. It wasn’t until three years later at sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and after intensive rehabilitation moved to the United States. In 1998 he started his last two years of high school at the United Nations International School in New York. It is this memoir I picked to read for book club and I am so excited to get started.

Since coming to the USA Beah has graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in political science and he is now a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee. He has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, and many other NGO panels on children affected by the war. He is an eloquent speaker who talks passionatley and authoritatively about the plight of boy soldiers in Africa.

Although Sierra Leone was assisted from civil war by British and other outside influence in 2002 there are many countries in Africa where children are still drugged, traumatized and forced to take part in horrendous atrocities on a huge scale. Here are some links regarding the situation in Africa and some further study on the Sierra Leone conflict and trade in blood diamonds that I hope you will read. I will review the book here on my blog after we meet at the end of July.

Films:

Documentaries “Cry Freetown” and the follow up “Retrun to Freetown” by Sorious Samura. Further info at http://www.cryfreetown.org/
Offical info about the movie “Blood Diamond” and factual info related to content at http://www.blooddiamondaction.org/

Blood Diamonds (USA)– nonfiction History Channel Documentary, 2007. 100 min. Available only by purchase through the History Channel
Related News Articles:

The Lure of Sierra Leone Diamonds By Elizabeth Blunt BBC News, Sierra Leone. Thursday, 22 February 2007

Director Attacks Diamond Campaign By Stephen Robb Entertainment reporter, BBC News. Wednesday, 24 January 2007
Charities and NGOs:

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